Students stand and deliver

McGill students hand over a cheque for $19,673.29 to Oxfam Quebec for Haitian relief efforts. From left to right: Maxime E. Illick (U3 political science), Sean Lynch (U3 anthropology), Karina Gould (AUS president), Marie Houde (Oxfam Quebec), Jenna Gogan (U2 sociology); and Zoë Prowse (U2 psychology). / Photo: Owen Egan

Outpouring of generosity raises $20,000 for Haitian relief effort

By Neale McDevitt

McGill students have proven they are more than equal to the task – no matter how daunting.

Yesterday, Karina Gould, President of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), presented a cheque for $19,673.29 to Oxfam Québec to go toward relief efforts in Haiti. The money was raised in an eight-day campaign in which volunteers crisscrossed campus with red buckets asking for donations. The funds will be matched by the federal government, bringing the total to almost $40,000.

On top of the money, the student-run initiative – which was spearheaded by the AUS, but quickly became a cross-faculty movement – also collected about 300 garbage bags of clothes for the estimated 6,000 refugees expected to begin arriving in Montreal within days.

The amount raised far surpassed the AUS’s original target of $6,000. “I’m ashamed to say that at first I thought $6,000 was a lofty goal,” said Gould. “But we blew it out of the water.

“Many students are paying their way through school or are on student loans, so you can’t ask for too much. But when we went to classrooms to collect, people just opened up their wallets and change purses and emptied them. It was incredible to see.”

Within 24 hours of the 7.0 scale earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, the AUS mobilized the fundraising drive – striking a committee, formalizing a plan, even designing posters. Using AUS listserv

and Facebook members contacted the various Faculty associations across campus to enlist help. “The response was overwhelming,” said Gould, with some 100 volunteers stepping forward to canvas. “Sometimes it is very competitive between faculties, but it was so impressive to see students just pitching in regardless of their affiliation.”

While the students were busy prying money out of their fellows, McGill’s Security Service personnel were planning their own fundraising drive, which has been in full swing this week. Security agents are combing the campuses, red buckets in hand, in search of support for the Canadian Red Cross.

On top of the students’ own red bucket brigade, a number of events including bake sales, clothing drives and a talk on Haiti, were quickly organized. And the money, mostly pocket change, started pouring in. “We have almost $20,000 in nickels and dimes,” said Gould. “It just goes to show if everyone gives just a little bit, we can do great things.”

Marie Houde of Oxfam Québec was all smiles when she collected the cheque at the AUS lounge. “This really is a wonderful initiative by McGill students, and to raise this much money in such a short time just shows how committed people are,” she said. “But we have to remember that this type of aid is needed all the time, not just after crisis situations. Hopefully, this will inspire people to stay involved.”

“We have all been deeply touched by the extent of the terrible devastation in Haiti, and we’ve all felt overwhelmed by the size and the scope of the work needed to rebuild the country,” said Principal Heather Munroe-Blum “It is so heartening to see the leadership shown by our students, who decided early on to make a contribution to the relief effort – and who ended up gathering more than three times their originally goal of $6,000. I am proud of all of you. It is clear from the reports we have seen that these funds will be used to provide essential support for the Haitian people.”

For Christopher Manfredi, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, the fundraising campaign – and the speed with which it was implemented – is proof that, despite their focus on the classroom, McGill students take world issues to heart. “We teach our students to be citizens of the world, to have compassion and empathy, and to use their talents to act decisively when needed,” said Manfredi. “But those areall theoretical ideals until put to a true test. This amazing student initiative shows how their engagement extends well beyond the Roddick Gates. While nothing will diminish the tragedy that has befallen Haiti, I find it inspiring to see the leaders of tomorrow leading today.”